As the Pendulum Swings

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I have had a number of articles, comics, and videos crossing my news-feed these days that directly relate to women, feminism, and the unequal playing field of gender equality.  They speak of women being strong, capable, and limitless, yet limited from birth by our culture, by our slogans, by our perceptions, by men, by women, by teachers and bosses and parents.  They talk about “leaning in” or “banning bossy” and about the “yes, we can” mentality.

Most of the videos I’ve seen and the articles I’ve read have been good.  They are addressing a truly viable topic.  The more light we shine in the dark corners of our culture, the fewer shadows we will have.  Women should be treated fairly.  They should have good jobs, equal pay, fewer limits.  They should be seen as strong and capable, because they are.

I have nothing to detract from this message.  As a woman, one who has encountered my share of struggles in this area, I am encouraged and motivated to see the next generation of our young women being taken more seriously, being told a different message, one of empowerment and value and worth.  As a mother of two daughters, I wholeheartedly support a world that is more welcoming, supportive, accepting, and dependent upon women and their multifaceted talents and strengths.  I would move mountains to ensure that my daughters have every possible advantage in achieving the goals and dreams they set out for themselves; we all benefit when women are treated as equals.

That being said, we are all familiar with pendulum swings.

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It is a tragedy how women have been treated in the past and, by all means, it is time for a change in that department.  I, as much as anyone, want to be instrumental in helping our young girls and women reach greater success.

And I want to be the voice of caution: instead of allowing the pendulum full range of motion, until it swings all the way over to men taking the place of the oppressed, let’s be the generation that settles in the middle, balanced.  I have no desire to see men or boys put down or belittled or made less of because of their gender, just because that’s what happened to women, or for any other reason.  No one wins in that scenario.

As women, we owe it to ourselves and to the men in our lives to climb the ladder of equality without stepping on anyone on the way up.  Instead of dragging men down, so we can rise, let’s take our place beside them at the top.

In supporting women and encouraging women and pursuing greater equality of the genders, we cannot afford to pull the rug out from our men in the process.  If we go all-out in pushing a woman’s advantage until women have all the advantage, we will be no better off than we are now.  No one wins when either gender is the underdog.

I have a wonderful relationship with permanent roommate; how would that relationship be improved by putting him down?  My daughters may at some point be interested in bringing a young man home to meet the parents; how would their relationship be strengthened by that young man growing up in a world that puts him down?  This has been the mark of misogynists and chauvinists across the ages, and we need to stop the behavior, not merely transfer it to the other gender.

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True equality happens only when men and women work together in sync.  A partnership.  Respect working as a two-way street.  Not with women taking the hits for the team.  Not with men being thrown under the bus.

I fully support women’s rights.  I fully support men’s rights.  The two do not have to be exclusive.  In fact, in an ideal world, they will perfectly balance each other out to the mutual benefit of all.

It’s a well-documented fact that there are a few things in this world that each gender is capable of that the other is not.  When we major in those differences and allow them to divide us, we all suffer. When we celebrate our differences and allow them to bring us together in a team, we all reap the benefits of both gender’s contributions being freely offered and generously accepted.

I know we don’t live in a perfect or ideal world, but why should that stop us from trying?

So I say, keep the message flowing to our young women that they are strong, capable, and talented, and that this world is ready to embrace their gifts.  And at the same time, let’s keep a message flowing to our young men that they are strong, capable, and talented, and that the world is ready to embrace their gifts.  Then let’s go a step further, beyond teaching, and let’s model how to respect each other and work together in harmony as each gender contributes to the good of the whole.

I look forward to the next video or comic that crosses my page.  It’s a good message, one that needs to get out.  And even more than that, I look forward to a day in the future when we no longer need to spread that message because it will be an established fact.

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In pursuit of that goal, let’s keep pouring the support and encouragement to both our young women and our young men.  This world needs both, and will be sadly less if one gender or the other continues to be pushed underfoot.  We all have brothers, sons, friends, or husbands who don’t deserve to be brought low as we pass them by on our way up.  Recognize the value we each bring to the table. Give each other a hand up as we both climb.  Watch out for the pendulum swing.

Let’s go down in history as the generation that celebrates the strengths in each one, regardless of gender.

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